Cost, a belief that the child “doesn’t really need to go,” and a lack of time are the top 3 reasons why parents in Victoria, Australia, don’t take their children to the dentist, according to Dental Health Services Victoria (DHSV). And these obstacles are having a clear effect on the oral health of children in the state.
The government agency gathered data from 1,845 children between the ages of 3 and 5 years who received a dental exam at 61 Victorian Smiles 4 Miles preschools in 2014 and 2015. Smiles for Miles is a joint initiative of DHSV and the Victorian state government that supports parents in promoting better oral health for their children, reaching 30,000 children and their families in 505 early childhood settings in disadvantaged areas across Victoria.
The Victorian Preschooler Oral Health Survey is the largest and first ever statewide study of its kind in Victoria. The project was a joint initiative of DHSV’s Centre for Applied Oral Health Research and the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. Other results from the survey included:
- 57% of children showed a history of decay
- Boys from rural areas had more decayed surfaces than girls from rural areas
- Children who have one or more soft drinks per day had almost twice the number of decayed surfaces than those who rarely or never drank soft drinks
- The odds of plaque being present in substantial amounts across many teeth was 68% higher for children whose parents held a healthcare or pensioner card
- 27 of every 1,000 children had received dental treatment under a general anesthetic
- 37% of children had only early decay white spots, which can be repaired by applying fluoride
- 40% of parents helped their preschoolers to brush their teeth twice a day
- Children living in areas where the water source was fluoridated had less tooth decay
- Children from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, Aboriginal children, and children who live in families who do not speak English at home had significantly higher rates of tooth decay.
DHSV CEO Dr. Deborah Cole said the results highlighted the importance of making sure oral health remained at the forefront of general health with a strong emphasis on preventative care.
“Our new Strategic Plan also recognizes this and we will continue to work hard in eradicating tooth decay as Australia’s most common health problem,” said Cole.
Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy added that having healthy teeth and gums plus good oral healthcare helps people stay healthy overall.
“National Children’s Week is a timely reminder for us all on the importance of taking extra care to look after our children’s oral health,” said Hennessy. “This important survey will enable us to better target health promotion programs and dental services where they are most needed.”